Celebrity Interview: Children’s Author and Illustrator Sharon Lane Holm

Did you always want to be an artist?

I wanted to be an artist since third grade. After high school, I graduated from the Art Institute of Florida. I knew that I loved children’s art, and that I wanted to go into that or work for greeting cards. I did have an offer from Hallmark, but I didn’t want to move to Kansas City, MO, where they were based. So I became an art director and did it for six years. I won awards in design, and then I started my family. My son was born and I knew that this was my opportunity to do kids’ books.

How did you take that next step?

When my son Michael was in kindergarten, that’s when I took the leap. I had to make $92 dollars a month to cover costs. I got an agent rather quickly, and then I worked for Highlights and many other publishers. It was thrilling. I had a mother’s helper who would come in the afternoons, and I made sure that when my son got home from school, that was when my day ended. It was great to spend that time with him. For him, his mom was always home.

How would you describe your style?

I would say that it’s whimsical and charming with a lot of bold colors. My style of creating the artwork is different from many artists today. I start the illustration with tissue paper, and then I keep putting tissue paper over it until I have the art the way I want it.

It’s almost like layers in Photoshop.

That’s right. And then I scan in my tissue. I’m much looser doing it this way because I feel I have the freedom to make the changes I want. After I scan it in, I do use Photoshop to make corrections, and then I print it with an Epson printer using archival paper. After that, I paint on it. So I get the spontaneity of the tissue paper, and the tactile feeling of working with paper, but I still get the modern convenience of it all.

You wrote and illustrated your first book, Zoe’s Hats. Let’s talk about it.

It was wonderful because I had complete creative control. Doing illustrations for other people is great, but it is truly a collaborative effort. This is all mine, and I strive to work like that. I currently have four books that are circulating that will hopefully be published in the next year.

You recently did your first app. What was that like?

What a learning curve that was for me! I still created the art traditionally, but then I had to make extra art pieces for the movement. It was almost like animation. It’s actual interaction between the app and the user; if you touch it, it turns the page. I did Kids Counting Kitties 10-1, and now I’m doing Kids Counting Kitties 1-10.

In addition to your artwork, you also teach art to children.

I work in an afterschool program teaching art to grades 3rd through 5th. By the end of the session, they have created what I as a professional would send to a publisher. It’s a pretend book, and the kids are thrilled with what they’ve accomplished.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing licensing work with greeting card companies and I’ve been working with the Vermont Christmas Co for a while. I love the work that I’m doing.

How do you prevent yourself from burning out creatively?

Walking the dog helps a lot, and being out in nature. I love going to the museum and seeing others’ work. I feel compelled to do something, and sometimes that might mean moving in different directions regarding my own style. At this point, it’s time for me to put more of me into it. I just want to do my own thing; I know what works and what doesn’t. Give me blank paper and I’m giving you me, who I am. Oh, and speaking of things that I do to relax, I also take tae kwon do and kickboxing, too.

So basically if someone didn’t like your artwork, you could take them out! [laughs]

[laughs] Absolutely!

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